Friday, December 31, 2010

Another Year Closes

What a fabulous day this is; another opportunity to consider what's ahead while gratefully considering what is passing.

I'm not a fan of resolutions, but of stock-taking. All sound businesses have a year-end (and periodic) inventory, so it seems an equally worthy endeavor where matters of the heart are concerned.

I began my considering & inventorying some weeks ago. It has encompassed conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious effort. I dare say it's been an exciting, faith-strengthening, convicting and worthwhile process.

Hindsight (as contrasted with running into the Backside of Monday) can reveal a good deal!

What was my anticipation at the end of 2009? Did I have a sense of what 2010 might hold? Any specific promises from God? Any vision or dream of what might be or how my life might unfold? Any broodings?

That's the beauty of journaling and blogging: One needn't dig terribly deep in order to tap into the reservoir of thought etched into one's life.

Back I go ...

My journal, as well as my blog archives are chocked full of the words & phrases that fall into my thought patterns (as I mentioned in my last post), as well as anecdotes, written prayers, hopes & dreams and EVEN - a few resolutions.
What stands out most to me right now is what I believe the Lord promised, or had imprssed upon me as 2010's door swung open:

It will be a year of great joy & peace, though to have such as these you will need great courage & boldness; inspired by Psalm 30, specifically ...
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.
(vs 11-12)

I thought it a beautiful blessing & promise at the time. I find it even MORE beautiful in hindsight.

Little did I know THEN what would unfold in 2010.

  • The dismantling of my job (and ministry) at Palm Valley Church.
  • The decision-making process of whether or not to return to Washington.
  • Ongoing dental/periodontal issues & costs (ugh!).
  • Formally retiring.
  • Leasing our home.
  • Packing for a move, which entailed downsizing - selling or giving away nearly all of our furniture and most of our possessions (going from 4,300 sf to 1,450 required such).
  • Leaving our beloved Church & Home Team, and my sister Barb.
  • Processing the concern about moving from blue skies to gray.
  • The addition of a new baby - to my son, NOT to me :)
  • The actual move late July.
  • Being hit with an ugly, costly lawsuit (against hubby; and now settled without there being culpability on his part).
  • Healing a rift (in the way of cool air) between us and some treasured friends.
  • Settling into a smaller home.
  • Spending more time with our children & grandchildren.
  • Wednesday afternoons with my sister, Dolores.

Need I say more? No wonder joy & peace were predicated on courage & boldness, for how else would one navigate all that and maintain them in the process?

Today I stand on 2011's shore. As I peer out across the sea of possibilities, it is a new impression that washes over me, and it relates to the obedient & surrendered words spoken by Mary:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.
"May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Luke 1:38

To which is added God's encouragement to Mary, and to myriad others as He prepares to do a work in, or fulfill a promise to them ...

"Do not be afraid ..."

It's impossible to steer the future unless, of course, it is left to The Captain. In that sense, the best is always yet to come!

I'm not talking predictions or prophecies here, just promises & impressions. And when one of them invades a day like today, it is a good thing to look ahead with great anticipation and exclaim: May Your word to me be fulfilled!

On December 27th of last year I closed my post with the following selection from Streams in the Desert. It's as good a piece as any to close 2010 as I welcome 2011.

You will not mind the roughness nor the
steepness of the way.
Nor the chill, unrested morning,
nor searness of the day;
And you will not take a turning to the left or to the right.
But go straight ahead,
nor tremble at the coming of the night.
For the road leads home.
Mrs. Charles Cowman

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Backside of Monday

Sort of a catchy little title, isn't it?

The phrase, the backside of Monday, has been rattling around my head in competition with other thoughts for several days. I'd like to tell you it's an odd thing; but the fact is, it's how my brain works. It's often the result of something I've read in scripture, or something I believe the Lord is impressing. I can just as easily be random musings.

Sometimes I'm able to orchestrate the rattling sounds into something melodious. At other times no such orchestration is to be had, and I am left to wonder what they - the rattles - mean, or where they might lead. Typically I jot them down in my hand-written journal; then set about forgetting them, or waiting for clarity, or both.

So what do I make of this one, this enigmatic backside thing?

Until today I didn't have a clue. But now I've gotten ahead of myself, so let's back up some (which takes us to the backside).

In recent days someone shared with me something that occurred many years ago; something hurtful I knew absolutely nothing about, but should have. It hit my gut like a head-on collision with reality, and for hours - even days - I lived in a soup of guilt, unsure about what, if anything, to do with the information.

It was plainly clear to me that I had been remiss - even irresponsible - in how I'd dealt with (or, rather NOT dealt with) something back there. My equilibrium was now as rattled as the rattles.

Fretful ... Sad... Ashamed... Stymied... Sorry... On-and-on I swam, doing both breaststroke & backstroke in that soup of guilt.

Then it began: The backside of Monday.

Silly 'ole phrase.

Not so fast, Kathleen!

What I've come to see - concluded - is that all my guilt & regret resides in the backside of Monday. It's the abode of past. It's on the backside, which means it is often obscure, or dark, or without the light of day. It's also the place I go when I allow what was to rob me of the joy of what is.

Then there's Monday - typically representative of the new work week - where, in this telling, my flesh rushes when preparing to impress both God & man. All the while I'm engaged in a works-oriented cleansing, I vascillate between beating myself up and making excuses.

Alas, the backside of Monday always & eventually leaves me feeling small, like a child in a foggy forest.

Best I chart my course along a track that runs on the frontside of dawn.

Well, at least the rattle's silenced for now. It's best I chart my course along a track that runs along the frontside of dawn.

For you became sorrowful as God intended
and so were not harmed in any way by us.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads
to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death.

See what this godly sorrow has produced in you:
what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves,
what indignation, what alarm, what longing,
what concern, what readiness to see justice done.

At every point you have proved yourselves
to be innocent in this matter.
2 Corinthians 7:9-11

Where morning dawns and evening fades,
You call forth songs of joy.
Psalm 65:8


P.S. Let me be clear: I'm all for sincere repentance. I also subscribe to the practical wisdom of "beginning with the end in mind" when it comes to making choices; and to personal accountability. But paddling around in the soup of guilt is none of these.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Everything, Really!

I rarely recommend books. I read a wide array of them; and have found many to be helpful, inspiring or entertaining, and some that deserved the recycle bin. Few grip me at my core.
My core is gripped with "Everything by Prayer", written by Fred Hartley III about the life and teachings of Armin Gesswein.
Thanks to dear friend Sonja (at Bits and Pieces) I now own the referenced work. I have been reading & weaping my way through it for several weeks now.
Armin Gesswein is a man well known among our elder Christian statesmen. His ministry was, and is foundational to many a notable organization because this humble, seemingly unknown man-of-God drew all men's hearts near to God through prayer. His mining of the biblical texts unearthed gold nuggets the size the golf balls!
Did I tell you that Sonja is Armin's daughter? She is; and I now know the secret of her steady gait. She is that apple not far fallen from the tree, and I'm thinking she has learned well one her father's many quotes: Secret prayer is the secret to prayer.
But when you pray, go into your room,
close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret,
will reward you.
Matthew 6:6
Thank you, Sonja, for the gift that has so touched me. Never have I viewed "everything" in quite the same context; nor will I ever again.

His divine power has given us everything we need
for a godly life through our knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Peter 1:3
Rejoice always, pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Who Is Wise?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.
Psalm 11:10

Who were they, the sojourners from afar that we call "wise" even today?

We assume that there were three wise men because of the three gifts that were given: gold, incense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). However, the Bible does not say there were only three wise men. There could have been many more. Tradition says that there were three and that their names were Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, but since the Bible does not say, we have no way of knowing whether the tradition is accurate.

It is a common misconception that the wise men visited Jesus at the stable on the night of His birth. In fact, the wise men came days, months, or possibly even years later. That is why Matthew 2:11 says the wise men visited and worshiped Jesus in a house, not at the stable.

We know that the magi were wise men from "the East," most likely Persia, or modern-day Iran. This means the wise men traveled 800 to 900 miles to see the Christ child. Most likely, the magi knew of the writings of the prophet Daniel, who in time past had been the chief of the court seers in Persia. Daniel 9:24-27 includes a prophecy which gives a timeline for the birth of the Messiah. Also, the magi may have been aware of the prophecy of Balaam (who was from the town of Pethor on the Euphrates River near Persia) in Numbers 24:17. Balaam's prophecy specifically mentions a “star coming out of Jacob.”

The wise men were guided to look for the King of the Jews by a miraculous stellar event, the "Star of Bethlehem," which they called "His star" (Matthew 2:2). They consulted with King Herod in Jerusalem concerning the birth of Christ and were so directed to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:4-8). They followed God's guidance joyfully (Matthew 2:10). Their gifts for Jesus were costly, and they worshiped Him. God warned them in a dream against returning to Herod, so, in defiance of the king, they left Judea by another route (Matthew 2:12).

So, the magi were men who

1) read and believed God's Word,

2) sought Jesus,

3) recognized the worth of Christ,

4) humbled themselves to worship Jesus, and

5) obeyed God rather than man.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. ... “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Matthew 7:21, 24-25

Who is wise and understanding among you?
Let them show it by their good life,
by deeds done in the humility
that comes from wisdom.
James 3:13

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise.
Seek what they sought.
~ Matsuo Basho

Wise Men / Got Questions
Photos / Google

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Variety Hours

There's a reason the 1950s are called The Golden Age of Television. What do you suppose they'll dub the 2000s: The Rusted Age? The Clay Age?
What I miss about that Golden Age (apart from my youth and my parents) is the fabulously fun variety shows that aired during the holiday season. Could we ever use a resurgence!
Confession: Hubby and I often watch reruns of the Lawrence Welk Show and actually enjoy it.
Do you recall ... ?

The Colgate Variety Hour

Your Hit Parade

The Ed Sullivan Show

People Are Funny

Ted Mack's Amateur Hour

Dinah Shore

Red Skelton

The Bell Telephone Hour

A one-anna-two-anna three ...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Flash Floods

Prevention is still the best remedy for many of those things that befall we mortals. Rather than wait for life's fallout, there ARE things we can do to steal ourselves against the knowns that may (or may not) visit.

We visit our physicians & dentists for regular check-ups lest disease have it's way with us. We pay our taxes to avoid the ire of the IRS. We have our vehicles serviced to keep them in running order, and to inhibit costly repairs. We eat healthy for the same reason we have our vehicles serviced. We keep the air clear with family, friends & co-workers lest "fog" damage our relationships.

The possibilities are endless where preventative measures are concerned.

Many of us will never experience a flash flood, at least not a literal flash flood.
But all of us, at some time(s) or another will suffer the flash floods that descend upon the heart with little or no warning. Worse, some of us live on flood plains; and it's just a matter of time ...

Thus I have found it VERY interesting to see what preventative tips are offered for the literal. Is it possible they can wizen us for life experiences both literal and spiritual? You betcha!

The U.S. Scouting Service (and many other sites) provide a number of helpful cautions & advisories. In part we learn ...

More people lose their LIVES in floods than in any other weather-related event. 80% of flood deaths occur in vehicles, and most happen when drivers make a single, fatal mistake - trying to navigate through flood waters.

Watch for the following signs:

◦Unusually hard rain over several hours
◦Steady substantial rain over several days
◦Rains in conjunction with a spring thaw
◦A monsoon or other tropical system affecting your area
◦A Weather report
◦Water rising rapidly in streams and rivers
•In hilly terrain, flash floods can strike with little or no advance warning.
•DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED AREAS! Even if it looks shallow enough to cross. The large majority of deaths due to flash flooding occur with people driving through flooded areas.
•If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants and sweep them away.
•Be especially cautious at night.
•Don't try to outrace a flood on foot. If you see or hear it coming, move to higher ground immediately.
•Be familiar with the land features where you live, work, and play. Be prepared!
•Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest statements, watches and warnings ...
•The National Weather Service will issue a Flash Flood Watch when heavy rains may result in flash flooding in a specific area. In this case you should be alert ... you should move to safe ground immediately.

I also know from personal experience that flash flooding is NOT likely to occur where solid ground & deep root systems are found. There's a reason high ground is safe ground.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine
and puts them into practice is like a wise man who
built his house on the rock.

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds
blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall,
because it had its foundation on the rock.

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does
not put them into practice is like a foolish man who
built his house on sand. The rain came down,
the streams rose, and the winds blew
and beat against that house,
and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61:2


Saturday, December 18, 2010

From Poverty to Privilege

Today it is my great blessing to speak to you via Lisa Shaw's Blog-home, "Sharing Life With Lisa".
I've selected the subject "From Poverty to Privilege" ... a subject I frame by way of a letter from today's me, to yesterday's me.
I am often heard to say: "If I'd only known then what I know now, I'd _____". I think we'd all agree, there's no substitute for advancing age, tests, experience & wisdom.

If you don't already know Lisa, you're in for a REAL treat (and your own special blessing).

So come on over to Lisa's ... I'll see ya' there!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where Joy & Sorrow Meet

My heartfelt thanks to the many of you that have offered condolences this week. Your emails, Facebook comments, and comments on my blog last week have conspired to encourage & comfort. I am deeply grateful.

For those who may not know, a beloved family member has bid us farewell. My oldest sister, Dolores, released her husband of 55 years, John, to move heavenward.

Today John will be buried.

Our family has gathered often these last days. Some have focused on funeral preparations; others to come alongside Dolores to help with the details that accompany the wrap on a person's earthly life; yet others to cook; and everyone to provide hugs & comfort. I dare say the family has demonstrated a bold bond that is, in itself, of great comfort. John is honored, and the Father more so.

The young ones have found this to be a particularly painful road. Death is no friend, as we all know; and it's bitter tenacity has a way of confounding the unseasoned (and often the seasoned as well). Thank God there is a place where glory remains; on the course Where Joy & Sorrow Meet.

Thank you again, good friends. I'll be back to visit your blog homes again soon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"How" versus "What"

“This, then, is how you should pray ... "
Matthew 6:9

Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue. ~Adam Clarke

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. ~Abraham Lincoln

The scriptures have much to say on the subject of prayer. Even so, I often find myself at a loss to understand it.

We choose well when we look to the Lord's Prayer as a model, but I wonder if that particular prayer, and others like it of our own design, are not used much like a repetitious incantation - a spell-like manipulation - instead of the intimate dialogue between oneself and God that it's meant to be. I merely wonder.

A word search through the New Testament on the many references for pray and prayer, very quickly morphed into some "aha!" moments for me. I began to see some things about prayer in a different light.

I wish I could tell you this is what prayer is, or this is how prayer works, or this is how to get the most out of prayer. Many have; and there's a voluminous plethora of books on the subject that do (some VERY good). I cannot.

What I do know is that Jesus did not tell us so much about what to pray as He did about how to pray - both in word, and in demonstration. He gave us a model, yet we nowhere see Him using that model as a prescription to be prayed out again-and-again.

His prayers, and presumably our own, fit the occasion, the need. They are intimate dialogue - communion - with the Father; the privileged conversations wrought between the Sovereign of All and we who call Him Father.

I like both the how and what of that ...

God sent his Son, born of a woman,
born under the law, to redeem those
under the law, that we might receive
adoption to sonship.

Because you are his sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
the Spirit who calls out, “Abba (Daddy) Father.”

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child;
and since you are his child, God has
made you also an heir.
Galatians 4:4-7

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions
as the heathen do. For they think that they will
be heard for their many words.
Matthew 6:7

Prayer is not merely an occasional
impulse to which we respond when
we are in trouble:
prayer is a life attitude.
~Walter A. Mueller

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Home on the Range

John Vitzthum
Gone to His Home on the Range
Decmeber 10, 2010

Very few families get to boast of their own cowboy. We are among those few.

Our beloved of John has long been a living legend among us. Strong, fiercely private, uttlerly devoted to family, quick to find humor, a lover of farms & ranches, unequaled in work ethic, John leaves us perplexed about how we're ever to fill the void he leaves.

In bittersweet resolve, our family gathers in preparations for his funeral on Thursday. Between now and then, what a great privilege it is to remember & share all that John has meant to us. How grateful are we that we had the opportunity to share these same things with him BEFORE he said his final goodbye.

Farewell, my brother. We'll ride the open range again someday. And this time I won't be afraid of the horse, or fall of.

I love you.

Footnote: John is the 80 year old husband of my sister, Dolores; father to Rick/Andrea, Jim/Julie, Diane, David/Heather, Vic/Mary, Monica/Tim; grandfather to Amy, April, Josh, Jessica, Charlotte, Lonnie, Hannah, Caleb, Nathan, Ashley, Emily; great-grandfather to Mason and soon-to-be born, Lincoln.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What a Strange Way to Save The World

Christmas gets me. It gets TO me.

It's not about trees, or baking cookies, or shopping, or even wrapping presents. It's not about Santa or sleigh bells; and it's not about decorating. All those things are fine & fun, but whether taken in part or in whole, they're not at all what GETS me.

When I attempt to collect all that is known about Jesus' actual birth, I conclude that little of what we understand, and even less of what we do, resembles that indescribable, incomprehensible incarnation of long ago.

So, that stuff - the collection that insists upon my attention - is tough to describe, but I'm guessing you know what I mean?

For days on end heavy tears press hard against the back of my eyeballs and, together with the lump that lives in the mid-regions of my throat I am forever a nano-second from being undone.

So it isn't anything related in reality to Christmas that gets me. It's something far more enigmatic. It begins before Thanksgiving, and it rarely ends before mid-January. It comes and goes like a gentle breeze, except when it comes and goes like a gale force wind.

Quite frankly, it has everything to do with the strange, utterly amazing way God chose to save the world.

It gets to me every time!
Therefore the Lord himself will
give you a sign: The virgin] will conceive
and give birth to a son,
and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

For I am not ashamed of the gospel,
because it is the power of God that
brings salvation to everyone who believes:
first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
For in the gospel the righteousness
of God is revealed ...
Romans 1:16-17

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Week in the Life of a Granny-Nanny

Or is it "Nanny-Granny"? Either way, I like the sounds of it (but don't you dare insert "Ninny" where it might fit ... ).

What a memorable week it's been. I've been hanging out with the clever & adorable Miss Rylie; and I'm re-living the days of yore (you just gotta love it when you can use 'yore' in a sentence) when chauffeuring was at the top of the list of my Mother's Resume (x three). I'm loving it!

Such are the sounds from the day-to-day life of a 14 year old ...

"Will you pick me up at 4:00pm today; I've got basketball practice after school again?"

"Don't forget, the game is 'away'; and it starts at 4:30pm."

"The whole group is meeting at Hanni's house before the dance, but first I'll come home and get all my stuff. Will you take me?"

"I need plain black flat shoes for the band concert. Can you take me shopping?"

(Photo: Rylie, Hanni, Ariannah)

"Any chance I can go over to my friend's house for awhile? I'll need a ride."

"The band concert starts at 7:00pm, but I have to be there by 6:15pm."

"Do you know what a 'Spirit Bag' is? I have to make two of them."

"Can we give my friends Fric & Frac a ride home again?"

My daughter returns on Friday (the poor dear has been in Hawaii), after which time my life will resume it's somewhat lackluster status (by comparison, anyway).

In the meantime, I'm relishing every moment of this; grateful to be welcomed into the world of a 14 year old girl.

Now that's status!

P.S. Thank you to all who've continued to pray for my 80 year old brother-in-law John. He remains hospitalized, but he's in much better condition than last week. He's not out of the woods yet; his heart is badly affected by the abscess that nearly claimed him. We are grateful for each day we have him; and grateful for the many that have held him and the family in their prayers.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Mystery & Beauty of Light

Our Jewish friends are celebrating the Festival of Lights - Chanukah (or Hanukkah) from December 1 through 9. Theirs is rich heritage; a legacy we as Christ Followers inherit.
The remembrance, beauty, symbolism and symmetry compel us to consider the
incredible linkage Chanukah has to light, the very hallmark of the holiday. You can read in detail about it at the Jewish Virtual Library.
The other thing you might enjoy (I know I did) are the following tidbits (emphasis is mine) ...

Chanukah 2010 Guide for the Perplexed (portions)
Yoram Ettinger
December 1, 2010

George Washington first learned of Chanukkah while at Valley
Forge, Pennsylvania, 1778: "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies
would have us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees' success, though it
is long past...It pleases me to think that miracles still happen."

"In God We Trust" was inspired, also, by the Maccabees’ battle
, which adopted Moses’ battle cry against the builders of the
Golden Calf. A literal translation of Moses' battle cry is “Whoever
trusts G-D; join me!”

The Maccabees' sacrifice and political-incorrectness inspired
Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" and New Hampshire's
"Live Free or Die." The Maccabees followed in the footsteps of
Abraham, Phineas the High Priest, Joshua & Calev, King David and
Elijah the Prophet, who walked against the grain, in defiance of the
establishment and conventional wisdom.

Inspiration to Benjamin Franklin's "Rebellion against Tyrants is
obedience to God." The Maccabees prevailed
due to their principle-driven, determined and can-do state-of-mind and
adherence to roots and long-term vision against any odds. (They) became a role-model for the US' Founding Fathers, including Paul Revere
(who was referred to as a "modern day
Maccabee") and the organizers of the Boston Tea Party.

The heroic (and tactically creative) battles conducted by the Maccabees,
were consistent with the reputation of Jews as superb warriors, who
were hired frequently as mercenaries by Egypt, Syria, Rome and other
global and regional powers.

Key geographic Maccabee sites are located in Judea and Samaria:
Mitzpah (also Samuel's burial site), Beit El mountains (Judah's first
headquarters), Beit Horon (Judah's victory over Seron), Hadashah
(Judah's victory over Nicanor), Beit Zur (Judah's victory over
Lysias), Ma'aleh Levona (Judah's victory over Apolonius), Adora'yim (a
Maccabees' fortress), Elazar & Beit Zachariya (Judah's first defeat),
Ba'al Hatzor (Judah defeated and killed), the Judean Desert, etc.
Jerusalem (beyond the "1949 Lines") was the Capital of the Maccabees.

The legacy of Shimon the Maccabee (is that he) succeeded Judah and Yonatan
the Maccabees, while responding to an ultimatum by the Syrian emperor,
Antiochus (Book of Maccabees A, Chapter 15, verse 33): "We have not
occupied a foreign land; We have not ruled a foreign land; We have
liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation." Thus
he responded to a super-power's ultimatum to end "occupation" of
Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gezer, Ekron and Gaza.

Chanukah is the longest Jewish holiday (8 days) with the most
intense level of Light (8 consecutive nights of candle lighting).

The origin of the name­ Chanukah­ is also education-oriented.
According to the first book of Maccabees, Yehuda (who succeeded
Mattityahu) ordered the Jewish People to observe an eight day holiday
on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, 165BCE, in order to
commemorate the inauguration (Chanukah, , in Hebrew)
of the holy altar and the Temple, following Syrian desecration.

A key feature of Chanukah is education of the family (Chinuch, in Hebrew).

The Hebrew word, Chanukah, consists of two words, Chanu, (they rested/stationed) and Kah, (25 in Hebrew), which refers to the fact that the Maccabees re-consecrated (aka dedicated) the Temple on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (purging it from the idolatries installed by the Syrians/Seleucids).

Some have suggested that the celebration of Christmas on December 25th and the celebration of the New Year 8 days later (January 1) have their origin in the 25th day of Kislev (which always “accompanies” December) and the 8 days of
Chanukah as well as the 8 days of circumcision.

The first day of Chanukah is on the 25th day of Kislev,
the month of miracles (e.g. Noah's Rainbow
appeared in Kislev). The first and last Hebrew letters of Kislev ­ -
equal (in Jewish numerology) 26, which the total sum of the Hebrew
spelling of Jehovah. Moses completed the construction of the Holy Ark
on the 25th day of Kislev, as was the date of the laying the
foundation of the Second Temple by Nehemaya. The 25th (Hebrew) word in
Genesis is Light (OR, , in Hebrew).

A Jewish metaphor for the Torah is light.

Eight days of Chanukah represent divine capabilities and
optimism. The ancient Temple Menorah consisted of seven branches,
which commemorated the seven days of creation. The Chanukah Menorah
has eight branches, reflecting the additional level of divine
capabilities over and beyond human expectations: The victory of the
few over the many and the lasting of one day supply of oil for eight days.

Chanukah symbolizes the victory of monotheism over paganism,
conviction over convenience and opportunism/cynicism (sometime
presented as "realism" or "pragmatism"), compassion over egotism,
self-control and restraint over temptation and promiscuity, endurance
over vacillation.

Happy Chanukah to all, and to all a good light!

Chanukah Blessing

Blessed are You, our God, Creator of time and space,

Who enriches our lives with holiness, commanding us to kindle

the Chanukah lights.

So now we know ...

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never
walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does
not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.
I have come into the world as a light,
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:44-46

Friday, December 3, 2010

Legalism or Grace?

I love the Constitution of this great country. It establishes the parameters for our governance and our freedom; it gives substance to the laws of our land.

As we all know, any time the Constitution is mis-applied or ignored, it is our freedom that is the first thing made vulnerable. It is like rot at the core of something valuable.

How grateful I am, then, for those in government that are appointed watchmen over such a vital document. We need leaders who take that charge seriously.

What some call legalistic, others call freedom's ring.

Bells are best heard in context ...

Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
Psalm 119:111

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD
are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
Psalm 97:7

Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
Psalm 119:2

Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.
Psalm 119:24


1: a law enacted by the legislative branch of a government
2: an act of a corporation or of its founder intended as a permanent rule
3: an international instrument setting up an agency and regulating its scope or authority


1: a command or principle intended especially as a general rule of action
2: an order issued by legally constituted authority to a subordinate official

The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
Psalm 19:8

The fear of the LORD is the
beginning of wisdom; all who follow
his precepts have good understanding.
Psalm 119:10

I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
Psalm 119:93

Grace is not the absence of law - of statutes and precepts. Grace is the loving application of that which ensures our freedom. Grace is Heaven's Constitution.

Let Freedom Ring.

Note: Definitions thanks to Merriam

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Streaming Thoughts

So many thoughts are streaming through my mind this morning. Many of them are associated with the Christmases of my youth; and they summon tremendous joy & gratitude. How blessed was I to grow up among a family so strong, and so loving.

However, this morning the streaming thoughts include concerns for my beloved brother-in-law, John. He's married to my oldest sister, Dolores; the father of five; grandfather to 11; and about to become a great-grandfather for the second time. Having had three sisters, he has been as close to a brother as they come.. (So, too, my other two brothers-in-law, Jim & Hal).
At 80, John's life has been full & rich in all things valuable, mostly family. His humor, work ethic, indomitable spirit and reserved calm are widely known & highly valued.
Today John lies in a hospital bed - so very, very ill.
The past 18 months have been especially challenging since his kidney failed. He undergoes dialysis 3-4 times a week, where he's become a bit of a living-legend (no surprise to me) due to those characteristic I've noted above; and the fact that his daughters often drop by to hang out with him during the procedure. They show up bearing cookie offerings. He (and they) are VERY popular!

Just this week John contracted pneumonia which landed him in the hospital. While there, other problems brewed; and today they are looking at a spot on his heart that may well be an abscess or a clot. It is not a good report.

Whatever the day brings, right now it has begun for me with a heart that is both joyous and troubled. It is a heart heavy with love, and with concern; perhaps because one is always born on the back of the other.

Your prayers on behalf of John and his family - Dolores, Rick & Andrea, Amy, April, Jim & Julie, Josh, Jessica, Diane, Charlotte & Colby, Lonnie & Shannon, Mason, David & Heather, Hannah, Caleb, Nathan, Monica & Tim, Ashley & Emily - are greatly appreciated.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wandering from Taberah

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom
that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful,
and so worship God acceptably
with reverence and awe,
for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28-29

It's an Idiom: From the frying pan into the fire. Been there; done that!
Not only is it an idiom, but it describes actual places (see photo) known as Taberah, and as Kibroth Hattaavah.
Oh you won't find them on any map, but as sure as the sun rises, they're places I've visited. They are always located in a wilderness.

We find both of them described in scripture, in the Book of Numbers, chapter 11 (parts):

Now the people complained about their hardships ...
Then fire from the LORD burned among them
and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
So that place was called Taberah,
because fire from the LORD had
burned among them. (1-3)

The rabble with them began to crave other food,
and again the Israelites started wailing and said,
“If only we had meat to eat!"... (5)

(God told Moses to) ... “Tell the people:
‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow,
when you will eat meat.
The LORD heard you when you wailed ... (18)

All that day and night and all the next day
the people went out and gathered quail.
But while the meat was still between their teeth
and before it could be consumed,
the anger of the LORD burned against the people,
and He struck them with a severe plague.

Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah,
because there they buried the people
who had craved other food.

Taberah means: Burning
Kibroth Hattaavah means: Graves of craving

As I read the story about these particular instances of contemptuous whining, it reminded me of some things I've learned, and that I keep learning ...

  1. When looking BACK (to the land of Taberah) with longing- as if what I've given up of the world's ways was or is desirous today - how burnt & singed is my heart. Those days were not, and are not worth repeating.
  2. When looking AROUND (to the land of Kibroth Hattaavah) - as if searching out & craving the things of the world that might somehow make my present condition more satisfying (or pleasurable) - how miserable is my soul.
Best to plant one's tent securely in His kingdom, in Beulah. It's no wilderness, and the only fire there is one that will warm you.

Come to think of it, it's like going from the frying pan into God's own loving arms. No idiom, but definitely a desirable destination!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Baby Blue Eyes & the Braggin' Grandma

There's no mistaking it: This little guy - Kole -
is the family's blue-eyed wonder !

Nana Leslie thinks I'm pretty cool ...

Have you seen me crawl? I'm only 5 1/2 months old!!

Bundled for snow ...

They call me "Peanut", and I think they love me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Selah at Sunrise

Just try and get to the bottom of the word "Selah", and you'll be digging indefinitely!

Regardless of chosen resources - be they Jewish or contemporary Christian or secular Wikipedic - there are varying opinions about the word's source and uses. Associated with their explanations are words like "maybe", "sometimes", "probably", "likely", "possibly", "if", etc.

We can just picture our linquistic experts as they sit in amused silence, each one scratching their head.

None, however, disagree on the word's ultimate power. In every instance, "Selah" is the grandest of all thanks-givings, for the source of "Selah" resides in the headwaters of heaven itself!

From the Jewish Talmud we learn that "Selah" is treated as a synonym of neẓaḥ and wa'ed, signifying eternal continuance without interruption.

It is also seen as a verb that means "lift up", applying to the voice. Some regard it to be an equivalent, or an affirmative corroborative expletive (no worries, this expletive doesn't come with soap!). (1)

The Amplified Bible adds “pause and calmly think about that” to each verse where it appears.

When we encounter the "Selah" in scripture, it simply means that we are to pause, and to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths. (2)

On this day of Thanksgiving, it seems so very appropriate to Selah at sunrise. In my world, He has certainly done, and does all things well. Selah!

“All the earth bows down to You;
they sing praise to You,
they sing praise to Your name."
(Psalm 66:4)

Jewish Encyclopedia
Got Questions?
Photos Compliments of Google Images

Monday, November 22, 2010

Incurable Gratitude Attacks

In the run-up to Thanksgiving my heart patiently endures a flurry of gratitude attacks. They're hard to explain, though I have to believe you know exactly what they look like and how they feel.
The majority of mine come in the form of recent events - - all those things that have occurred in the past year that deliver me to present day. They're happenings ... and people ... and places ... and doings ... and beings ... and havings ... and losings ... and so much more.
I dare not begin to list them because I cannot afford to sit in this one place for six, or thirteen, or 24 days on end. My list is endless.
There are a few, though, that derive from days long passed; days of my childhood.
I spoke of a particularly tough one last year with the penning of It's Time. But most are light-hearted fare and center on home; the place of my childhood. That's where warmth and security reigned in the form of family - daddy, mommy and my sisters three. They always feature prominently in my every giving of thanks.
(Photo: the home of my childhood)

(Photo: Carol, Dad, Kathleen, Barb, Mom, Dolores)

(Photo: Barb, Mom, Carol, Kathleen, Dolores)


The run-up is fully underway now, so I'm keenly alert to the flurry that stirs me. I'm sure glad there's no cure for an attack of gratitude, but turkey does help.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lessons from My Maple

Summer's pride demonstrated in a full array of glorious, otherworldly garb. Standing tall - fully cloaked - the magnificant Maple gladly obeys the summons of it's Creator; a summons to share the beauty & bounty crafted by His own skilled hands.

As the weeks roll by, the Maple's lush hues are made more glorious - were that even possible! They are decorated in increasing measure with the scarlets that have been threaded by His tender hands. It obeys with joy His summons to present this dignified demonstration of heaven's unrivaled beauty.

Assaulted now by contrary winds and threats of death, the humbled Maple stands naked, finding it difficult to to hear a new summons. But it obeys, standing naked, and in hushed silence. Then the whisper ... "Spring's array is already crafted, and the newest hues are more wonderful than before. It's splendor will be worth the wait, even a wait in nakedness. "

Though a tree grows so high,
the falling leaves return to the root.
Malay proverb

I like trees because they seem more resigned
to the way they have to live than other things do.
- Willa Cather (1873-1947), O Pioneers 1913

The tree which moves some to tears of joy
is in the eyes of others only a
green thing that stands in the way.
Some see Nature all ridicule and
deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all.
But to the eyes of the
man of imagination,
Nature is Imagination itself.
- William Blake, 1799, The Letters

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One Too Many Taqiyya

Are you going to believe me,
or what you see with your own eyes?

~ Groucho Marx

At first glance it's a fun & funny little word: taqiyya. No, it's not a beverage akin to Tequila or a menu item at your favorite Mexican restaurant. It's not a Native American place name or a key character from the movie Avatar. I dare say it's far more sinister than any of these.

I stumbled across the word while reading an article, having never heard it before. At once I thought it belonged in my own personal word-arsenal. Then, like we are encouraged in Reader's Digest's Word Power, I've been attempting to use it in sentences, in context so as not to forget the power of it's meaning.

So what is it - taqiyya - exactly?

Believe it or not, it's a doctrine. It derives from the Islamic religion, but it's hardly the property of Muslims alone.

In essence, taqiyya permits strategic lying. In fact, it not only permits it, it holds such skill in utmost esteem. Seems there's nothing to equal a convincing liar.

It's literal meaning is "concealing, precaution, guarding"; and in practical terms it is manifested as dissimulation, lying, deceiving, vexing and confounding with the intention of deflecting attention, foiling or pre-emptive blocking. (1)

No doubt you know someone that speaks falsehood so convincingly that they actually believe it to be true; their taqiyya skills finely honed?

I confess: I was never very good at it, but it wasn't for lack of trying: "Oh mother ... don't be such a worry-wart. I never drive over the speed limit." Or, "Me ... heck no; I don't have a problem with alchohol; I can stop drinking anytime I want."

Denial. Self-deluded. Veiled. These are the adjectives associated with the snookered. You can often see the tell-tale traces of fish line at the corner of their mouths (I have a few scars of my own!). Believing the lie is so much easier (and often less painful) than ferreting out the truth.

The taqiyya-adept exist in our midst (with a poker face) among family & friends, or giving out the news, or running for/holding public office, or preaching from the pulpit, or selling snake oil. Golly! (to quote Gilligan), they're everywhere!

But I (Jeremiah) said, “Alas, Sovereign LORD!
The prophets keep telling them,
‘You will not see the sword or suffer famine.
Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’”

Then the LORD said to me, "The prophets are
prophesying lies in my name.
I have not sent them or appointed them
or spoken to them.
They are prophesying to you false visions,
divinations, idolatries and
the delusions of their own minds."
Jeremiah 14:13-14

They perish because they refused
to love the truth and so be saved.
For this reason God sends them
a powerful delusion so that they
believe the lie
and so that all will
be condemned who have not believed
the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12

While I find this subject matter amusing, it strikes a deeper chord too. Afterall, who among us hasn't encountered the above scriptures, or heard that there is coming a time when the practioners of taqiyya will be utterly believable? They'll be giving out regular, and free doses of their fabrications as if such fabrications are foundational truths.

I've concluded the antidote to the Doctrine of Taqiyya is to seek and to know the truth, The Truth.

Afterall, being a believer is not about being an Ostrich. That would be playing right into the hands of the Taqiyya-izers.

Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching,
you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32

... and isn't it fascinating that the seeking/finding of Truth is ALWAYS associated with obedience? Taqiyya's standards require no such nobility, which means even one taqiyya, is one too many.

Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Confessions of a Consecrant

To consecrate means to hallow, or to dedicate to a special purpose.
Neither meaning is particularly helpful, other than to connote the spiritual nature of being consecrated. It's use, as well as it's definition will vary from one person to another; from group-to-group; or from one denomination to another.
Here's the confession part of my post: I've never liked the word "consecrate". It, like many others from our Christianese vernacular, is bothersome to me in that it comes off high-and-mighty, churchy; and it doesn't really get to the heart of the matter. In truth, the heart of the consecration-matter couldn't be more amazing, or more personal than what is commonly associated with it.
There are other, related dots we can connect to this subject; dots like living sacrifice, anointed, called/chosen, transformed. In the end, they all tell us:.

The Word of God, ministered in our hearts
by the Holy Spirit, is the only power on earth
that can transform us from worldliness
to true spirituality

(I also like what Watchman Nee (2) has to say about this subject.)

Through the Lord's constraining and based on His purchase, we separate
ourselves from every other thing. Henceforth, we live for and unto the Lord.
This is consecration.

... we see (in Exodus 28:1-2, 29:1, 4, 9-10) that man does not
consecrate himself because he has chosen God. Rather, God
is the One who chooses and calls, and then man consecrates
himself to Him.

Consecration does not depend upon our willingness. It is because of God's
abounding grace that we can consecrate

My friend Elaine at Peace for the Journey writes a poignant, related piece in In her recent post entitled "on Christian 'calling' ". Were I the swearing sort, I'd swear she wrote it just for me because it quieted my thoughts, and confirmed many of my own brooding musings over this consecration business. She reminded me again how complicated we I make the living for the Lord equation.
My take-away from brooding on this subject? All my formulas ... contrivances ... expectations ... love of the sensational ... mis-applied & mis-appropriated scriptures ... clamor ... (more confessions!), do little more than muddy the refreshing, icy, clear water given by God Himself to quench my thirst.
While some (though none of you, or me) seek high-and-mighty ministries, or are on a quest to tap into signs & wonders as an affirmation of spiritual maturity, the Lord Himself tells us of the great significance (and power) in The Ministry of Waiting. I could site scripture-after-scripture (and so can you) about the value of such a ministry, but suffice it to say: Until we've I've learned to be content there (in the waiting), I doubt any other self-consecrated ministry-effort or outcome will be quite what He had in mind for me.
There's a dramatic connection between God's work in sanctifying us, and our work (if you can call it that) in surrendering to it. We consecrate ourselves because we are called to it; and we are called to it because of His unfathomable love. It's mysterious, but no mystery. It's just that simple.
It is our reasonable service.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Review: America's Prophet

America’s Prophet
By Bruce Feiler
Published by Harper Perennial,
an imprint of Harper Collins
“… the founders of America introduced the themes
of oppression and redemption,
anticipation and disenchantment,
freedom and law,
that would carry through
four hundred years of American history.
Because of them, the story of Moses
became the story of America.”
Bruce Feiler
It’s not a project - a formal book review - that I’ve ever undertaken in any systematic way, yet here I am at the request of Trish Collins from TLC Book Tours, doing exactly that. So let me dispense with any suspense about this particular book: it’s two-thumbs up, and five stars!
America’s Prophet is an astutely woven work of non-fiction; well researched, and dotted with literary acumen as well as humor. Author Bruce Feiler (pronounced Filer) connects us ingeniously to Moses, transforming him from more than an ancient freedom fighter. With the author's skilled pen, Moses leads us through every age, and continues to lead us today.
From the Sumerian plains of antiquity to the Oval Office, with both secular and biblical history as a backdrop, the author demonstrates how the Moses narrative of the Exodus becomes the narrative of America's history; past, as well as present tense
Our storyteller derives a rich hue for this work from his own Jewish roots; roots that provide an artful backdrop, and an eloquence of pen. It's more than a mere connecting-of-the-dots because in every chapter, every scene we find Moses confronting the tyrants, dealing with his own personal insecurities, challenging the people, and exercising his powerful prophetic voice.
I began grabbing quotes early on; quotes that I found particularly powerful. But before long I had so many of them I decided to share but a few. For instance ...
“What happened first in churches happened next in government.”
or ...
“The persistence of Mosaic imagery at
nearly every major turning point in the country’s
formative century shows how clearly the
themes of chosenness, liberation from slavery,
freedom from authority, and collective moral responsibility
had become the tent pole of American public life.”
or ...
"For those in pain,
biblical time becomes any time."
or ...
"What starts in religions makes
it's way into politics.".
It’s not simply the body politic to which the author addresses himself, but the entirety of America's fabric: medicine, the arts, film, science, and more. He introduces Moses at every juncture, and in every introduction we recognize a prophet that lives on.
I believe it's safe to say that America's Prophet was a tough book to set down, and an even tougher book to forget. I also believe it's safe to say that we can put away any notion of faith - and even the Scriptures - having had nothing to do with America's humble beginnings. Here is a book that is bound to give the naysayers in our midst great pause.
With that, I'll end this review with my favorite of Bruce Feiler's quotes:
"... the ultimate lesson of Moses' life is that
the dream does not die with the dreamer,
the journey does not end on the mountaintop,
and the true destination in a narrative of hope
is not this year at all."
To get your own copy of America's Prophet, it's as easy as a trip to Amazon ...

For more about Bruce Feiler - his bio and many other books - check out his website.

My thanks to Trish Collins for the gift of the book, America's Prophet, and for the privilege of rendering an opinion. I've received no compensation for doing so.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scenes from Arizona

I've decided to let the pictures speak for themselves. How else could I possibly capture all the elements of an amazing eight day trek among the richest of our treasures: Arizona family & friends!

“If you live to be 100,
I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day,
so I never have to live without you.”
~ Winnie the Pooh

It began with a visit at my sister Barbara's.

Then onto Tuscon to visit our cousin Mary Ann.

Breakfast with many from our church Home Team.

Meeting up with a very special family; one that is every bit our own - Pastor Greg, Lori, Jake, Zach, Josh & Brooke.

Wednesday mornings are best spent with the women's prayer group (and coffee, giggles & hugs) ...

My team from the office.

Such fun with Debbie (from Heart Choices), and the ducks.

What an amazing lady, hostess and friend is Kim (we stayed several days with she and hubby her hubby, Greg).

Visiting the Pierce Dairy ...

Dinner with great friends ...

Breakfast at Kim & Greg's resort-like home with the White Tank Mountains as a backdrop. So beautiful!

Catching Pastor Greg's flag-football team (and curly-headed Josh) winning the Championship before we leave town.

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson